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World Affairs Summit

Free your mind and the world will follow

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OK. Tacoma, it’s time to get global.

A group of local visionaries is going to make it easy by presenting the first ever World Affairs Summit April 19-21 at various locations throughout our burgeoning little burg. Organizers promise a series of compelling conversations with local and regional globetrotters, culture hounds and prime minds from around the way. Themes to be wrestled with include peace and social justice, the environment and education.

The goal? Freeing minds, expanding horizons and generating a critical mass of dialogue designed to help the South Sound wake up to the realities of a connected world. Presenters and conversation leaders will run the gamut — from John Ladenburg to self-proclaimed Urban Yoda Paul Sparks.

Kicking off the three-day dialogue is a kaleidoscopic, creative explosion at Theater on the Square. Look forward to poetry and a public art unveiling by Loyalty Conglomerate’s Daniel Blue; a Tacoma slideshow by Corina Bakery owner Walter Gaya; a b-boy extravaganza by Tacoma’s own Dancebroomz; music by Aaron Spiro, who will perform with locally-produced films projected on his frame; cuts by DJ Reign; some improvisational jams; and some interactive exercises designed to prepare participants for conversations to follow. Freaks, artists, ghosts, teachers, kids, emcees, elders, skaters, talking horses, Martians and all others are welcome.

The kickoff celebration will be sparked by Vancouver-based facilitator/mc/poet/writer/educator Nadia Chaney, who will spit some poetic wisdom, lead discussions and emcee the opening ceremony. Chaney defines her work as arts-based empowerment, and her specialties include issues of identity, diversity and non-violence. Her workshops have watered parched minds from Portland, Ore., to Johannesburg, South Africa. In Tacoma, she invites everyone and their mother to participate in a serpentine conversation, hoping that thousands of divergent perspectives will emerge, clash and cleave during the three-day dialogue.

“The challenge is about being able to connect honestly, with personal integrity, across lines of real difference,” says Chaney. “Come as you are. In order to participate, in order to prepare yourself for a global culture, you can’t be contrived. You don’t have to bring anything but your opinion. Be ready to speak what you believe, listen to things you’ve never heard, and be ready to find your allies.”

For many, the eruption of perspectives at the World Affairs Summit will be a shock — a miniature version of something happening worldwide. It will help to remember that in less than a century humanity has evolved from a collection of largely disconnected tribal enclaves to a mobile, connected, intermingling, increasingly mixed-up mass. At the turn of the century, most of the world’s population never ventured more than a hundred miles from the places where they were born — living and dying in a cultural cocoon. Kipling’s quip “East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet” was an omnipresent reality.

But not anymore, folks.

Today, just about anyone with a few hundred dollars and the proper paperwork can travel nearly anywhere in the world. Not long ago, traveling from one end of a small continent to the other took a minimum of six months. Today, from anywhere in the world, the farthest point is 12,500 miles. Flying in a typical supersonic jet, that farther point is now just half a day away. For those who can’t afford a plane ticket, worldwide telecommunications networks deliver knowledge of world cultures cheaply and almost instantly.

Most of the world’s population, meanwhile, is still trying to bring it all into focus.

“I’ve always thought what happens closest to you affects you the most,” says World Affairs Summit co-organizer Dawn Lucien. “But in the past four years, the things that are going on nationally and internationally are more important than whether I have a pothole in my street.”

Lucien recalls discussions of emerging global realities during the 1960s, when she served on Tacoma City Council. She laments that decades later, many people continue to overlook the implications of our global connections.

“I do think we are a global society,” she says, “whether we realize it or not. We need to know and understand more about what is going on around us in order to be good citizens. We need to know individually that we can all make the world a better place.”


Thursday, April 19

Kickoff ceremony — Nadia Chaney, Daniel Blue, Aaron Spiro, Dancebroomz, Ron Gilbert, DJ Reign and Walter Gaya. 5:30-9 p.m., Theater on the Square, 905 Broadway, Tacoma.

Friday, April 20

Keep sticking your neck out — John Graham, president of the Giraffe Heroes Project. 8:30-9:15 a.m., Museum of Glass Auditorium, 1801 Dock St., Tacoma. 

Who are the emerging leaders — Bob Stilger, president of the Berkana Institute. 2-2:45 p.m. Museum of Glass Auditorium, 1801 Dock St., Tacoma.

Bury the Rag — self-proclaimed Bob Dylan scholar, Pierce County Executive and Sound Transit Board Chair John Ladenburg, along with fellow Dylanophile Lyle Quasim, will  intersperse history and analysis with cuts of Dylan’s songs. I’m dead serious. 6 p.m., UW Tacoma, 1900 Commerce St., Tacoma.

Saturday, April 21

Film: “Invisible Children.” 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. at UW Tacoma, Carwein Auditorium, 1900 Commerce St., Tacoma.

More information

For full schedule of World Affairs Summit events, visit

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